Cairns have a mystery about them.
Found throughout the world, dating from prehistoric to modern times,
conical in shape, are piles of stones constructed by man. Appearing in barren places, along shorelines,
upon hills, roadsides, hiking trails, or on cliffs overlooking the sea, cairns can have a simple
or elaborate significance. cairns
A cairn site has four main purposes. To mark a grave; in tribute to a person of significance; for trail navigation, or as sea markers to help ships determine their location. Cairns also line the earth with reverence and remembrance beneath the stars. Since there is no mortar used to hold them together, large burial mounds found throughout
England and are
seen as unbelievable methods of ancient engineering. Ireland
Most cairns appear natural in color although some are known to have been painted for religious purposes depending on place and culture. As trail markers they are used to indicate specific directions, a living map of sorts or permanent form of 'bread crumbs' to aid one along a difficult passage.
In Scottish Gaelic "Cuiridh mi clach air do chàrn" is translated: "I'll put a stone on your cairn". According to folklore from the
Highlands, each man going to battle would place a stone
in a communal pile signifying a burial mound. Those who returned from war removed
a stone to signify their survival, those who did not were part of the cairn of
the 'beloved dead.'
Folklore states that the enormous cairn atop Knocknarea belongs to the mythical Iron Age Queen Maeve. Considered bad luck to remove a stone from her monument, one is encouraged to travel up its girth to deposit a stone instead ensuring good luck and protection.